In December, the CDC prioritized skilled nursing and assisted living residents and staff members in phase 1a of vaccine rollouts. Now, across the nation, long-term care operators are hosting vaccination clinics for their residents and staff. There are two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the U.S., with multiple others showing promise in Phase 3 clinical trials. All of this comes as good news. Despite it, Ruth Katz, senior vice president of policy at LeadingAge, warns that as of January 3, 2021, about 50% of nursing home workers were declining to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In response, operators are implementing a variety of strategies to encourage and improve vaccine acceptance. It should be noted that vaccination clinics continue to ramp up and the CDC reports, as of January 19, that more than 1.7 million doses have been administered across long-term care, representing over 56 percent of the 3 million seniors in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, and other congregate settings.
“The drag on occupancy rates continued to be observed in the Wave 19 survey results. This likely reflects a combination of challenges in backfilling COVID-related vacancies as well as the effects of typical seasonality during the holidays and winter months. Despite reports of record-high COVID-19 cases across the country occurring daily, roughly two-thirds of respondent organizations were not increasing move-in restrictions presumably in part due to operator innovations in infection mitigation and creative visitation protocols which have gained acceptance from many residents and families. Long-anticipated as a game-changer with regard to improving occupancy, many operators are now starting to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Wave 20 survey is currently collecting data on the distribution of the vaccine to provide new insights for decision-makers.” –Lana Peck, Senior Principal, NIC
The senior living market faces a new reality. The economic fallout of the pandemic has put pressure on the affordability of many communities. Elders who previously had the resources to move into a community may no longer be able to do so, expanding the already large group of seniors with modest incomes in need of housing. At the same time, more middle-income seniors are drifting into the low-cost end of the market.